Watch: Independent Sage professor explains how festive period could lead to COVID 'super-spreading'
Christmas and New Year could turn the UK into a nation of “super-spreaders”, a coronavirus expert has warned.
Speaking at an Independent Sage briefing on Friday, Prof Christina Pagel laid out how the holiday period could be “disastrous” for the spread of COVID-19.
Prof Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London, was asked by Yahoo News UK about the likelihood of families being able to visit each other during the holiday period.
For “even a semblance of a normal holiday period”, she said case numbers will have to dramatically decrease from current levels – with October having seen more than 500,000 lab-confirmed infections.
If cases aren’t as low as they could possibly be, Prof Pagel warned there could be “disastrous” consequences if families see each other across the country.
She laid out a scenario involving three potential “super-spreading” events over late December and January.
"[With] universities, with two million students going round the country, this is millions of families. Multi-generations, inside, for a whole day, with alcohol…
"Then everyone goes home and a week later they meet different people for New Year.
"And a week after that people go back to school, university, work.
"That’s three super-spreading situations we are potentially setting ourselves up for.”
She added: “If we go into that with a high number of cases, that could be disastrous. So we have to get cases down as low as possible and the sooner we start, the better chance we have of doing it."
Independent Sage is an alternative scientific body which was formed to offer further viewpoints during the pandemic. The official Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) is the body which provides recommendations to Downing Street.
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Meanwhile, leaders from the UK nations are expected to hold talks about a “common approach” to Christmas amid continued doubts.
Wales first minister Mark Drakeford told a press conference on Friday that he had received a letter from Boris Johnson advising he would be getting an invitation from senior cabinet member Michael Gove to a discussion on a common approach to Christmas across the UK.